Shock horror – electorates used MPs for fundraisers

3 News reported last night:

3 News can reveal details about a fundraising network used by the National Party to get donations in exchange for access to MPs and ministers.

The Green Party is calling it a secret racket, but because the donations are declared there are no rules broken.

The first rule of Cabinet Club is you do not talk about Cabinet Club. Four National MPs 3 News spoke with said they were not sure what it was.

It’s been many years since I was involved in the party organisation, but to the best of my knowledge there is no central organisation called Cabinet Club. It is a generic term that some use (including me) to refer to electorate level fundraisers where you pay an annual fee for a series of breakfast or lunch meetings with MPs.

Each electorate that has one, designs it themselves. Some may do a monthly breakfast with an MP or Minister speaking. Some may do occassional lunches or dinners. I’m not sure how many, if any, are called Cabinet Clubs. It’s a term that is used internally a bit as a generic term, but I’m not sure how many electorates, if any, use that term.

This is not some new secret fundraiser. Such “clubs” (it’s not a club – it an annual payment for a series of functions) have been absolutely common since at least the 1990s, if not the 1980s. And yes both major parties have electorates that use them.

Supporters pay a fee or donation to the party to attend three or four “informal luncheon/breakfast get-togethers”. They get access to ministers who attend, though the party claims “not in a ministerial capacity”.

It’s not access to ministers. It’s attending a function where they speak and do Q+A. Just like Ministers and MPs do around the country for rotary clubs, chambers of commerce and the like.

We have incredibly accessible Ministers. Most Ministers are doing public functions a couple of times a week. Almost anyone can meet an Minister in their electorate office, if they have one. If you ask to meet a Minister on a portfolio matter, most will make time to meet you. And community organisations and Ministers invite Ministers and MPs all the time to speak to them, meet them etc.

I note no other media seemed to have treated this as a story, as it is basically a non-story. The main people excited by it are Green Party supporters as they don’t want parties to be funded by private donations. They want to pass a law forcing taxpayers to directly fund political parties – which of course entrenches the established parties.

UPDATE: If you want a casr though of selling direct access, I blogged last year on how Labour was selling one on one meetings with its MPs for $1,500. Maybe an inquiring journalist could ask Russel Norman what he thinks of that. National sells tickets to breakfasts and lunches. Labour sells one on one meetings.

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